One travesty perpetrated by tour promoters over the decades has been their reluctance to invest in the drawing power of ‘A’ list soul performers and bring them to this city. It is hard to recall many of the giants of the genre making it onto an Adelaide stage too often in the past – James Brown (at the Apollo in Richmond!) and Smokey Robinson were here back in the eighties – but I can’t remember too many others.
Therefore, whilst Lee Fields is not a household name in this country, it was soul stirring to have someone of his pedigree perform at The Palais on Monday night and remind us of what we have all been missing out on.
The man who is sometimes known as ‘Little JB’, in recognition of his undeniable soul credentials, has been plying his trade since 1969 and has worked with many of the genres biggest names – even supplying lead vocals for the 2014 James Brown biopic, Get On Up.
Fields obviously graduated with honours from the soul academy, majoring in the study of The Godfather Of Soul, and his performance featured many of Brown’s signature moves and techniques: the delayed arrival onto the stage to build up crowd expectation; the use of the dramatic pause mid-song; the strutting around the stage commanding his musicians to respond to his subtleties of movement and nuance; his ability to whip up a call and response frenzy from the instant converts before him; and the way he has his lead guitarist regularly remind us of in whose presence we were privileged to be – ‘Ladies & Gentlemen!…Mr. Lee-ee Fie-elds!’. These essential soul moves added to the high energy excitement the band generated on their all too short hour on stage.
Although the set relied heavily on material from his 2016 album, Special Night, there were some songs from his back catalogue featured as well, with the highlight being a honey-dripping performance of the title cut from 2012’s Faithful Man.
Fields’ music draws upon all the classic soul touchstones – the slick ballads, the social conscience protest songs that build to raucous screaming exhortations for us all to live together in peace and harmony, and the barnstorming hand-clapping, arm-waving exorcisms that release you from your worry and deliver you into ecstatic joy.
It was a triumphant performance, one that made you believe that the show was not scripted and choreographed – although no doubt it had been performed a hundred times before – and that reached deep down into your soul.
The only blemish was that the show started nearly fifteen minutes past the advertised start time – yet finished on schedule. This meant that those who had acquired tickets for this excellent show were effectively denied their full quota of this authentic, prime quality soul music!
Lee Fields & The Expressions performed for one night only as part of the Adelaide Festival, at The Palais on Monday 12 March.
Adelaide Festival tickets are available here: ADELAIDE FESTIVAL TICKETS